Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 31 Aug 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about an alleged breach of Mr X’s personal data. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. The Information Commissioner’s Office, not the Ombudsman, is the appropriate body to investigate Mr X’s complaint.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, complains a council social worker wrongly shared personal information about Mr X with other agencies. The Council disagrees with Mr X, and says the social worker acted correctly.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by Mr X and the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights. It promotes openness by public bodies and protects the privacy of individuals. It deals with complaints about public authorities’ failures to comply with data protection legislation. This includes disclosing information in error. This is the issue at the heart of Mr X’s complaint.
- There is no charge for making a complaint to the ICO, and its complaints procedure is relatively easy to use. Where someone has a complaint about data protection, the Ombudsman usually expects them to bring the matter to the attention of the ICO. This is because the ICO is in a better position than the Ombudsman to consider such complaints. Mr X should therefore approach the ICO about his concerns. It is the appropriate body to decide if the Council has acted correctly. This is not a decision for the Ombudsman.
- We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because the Information Commissioner’s Office is the appropriate body to investigate his concerns.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman